NLS publishes biography of blind activist

Jacobus tenBroek
Photo caption: Jacobus tenBroek

The first full-length biography of a champion of equal opportunities for blind people and founder of the National Federation of the Blind was recently published by NLS and Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals in North America.

Blind Justice: Jacobus tenBroek and the Vision of Equality by Floyd Matson recounts how the crusader (1911 1968), who was blinded by an arrow at age seven, obtained a law degree, fought for and received a university teaching position, and became a pioneer in organizing the blind community to claim constitutional rights. "Individually, we are scattered, ineffective, and inarticulate. Collectively, we are the masters of our own future and the successful guardian of our own common interests," tenBroek stated in his 1940 keynote address to the inaugural convention of the National Federation of the Blind.

In his introduction, author Matson, a professor of American Studies at the University of Hawaii and friend and collaborator of tenBroek, writes: "Equality, for tenBroek, was the last great goal of democracy yet to be accomplished the hope deferred, the one true thing demanding to be realized in the world. His own life was an unrelenting battle for equality not just for himself as a blind man but also for all the disabled and dispossessed, the invisible people of the earth."

Jacobus tenBroek and Kenneth 
Jernigan, 1961.
Photo caption: Jacobus tenBroek and Kenneth Jernigan examine raised-line blueprints at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in Des Moines, 1961.

"To attain progress, individuals with common needs and shared goals must organize. And for the blind of America to progress, they too must organize. This salient assessment and the ability to transform this assessment into action was one of Jacobus tenBroek's greatest contributions to the blind community," NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke writes in the foreword of Blind Justice. "NLS is pleased to publish this biography of the man who built the case for the constitutional rights of many minority groups in America including, but not limited to, the blind community."

Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind and of the Friends of Libraries, notes in the preface, "TenBroek's voice is one that expanded human potential by a faith in those who would otherwise have been rejected. He is a champion among the founders of freedom."

Copies in regular print are available in both hardcover and paperback from the Government Printing Office. The book is also available from the NLS collection in braille and on audiocassette.

Patron input shapes DTBM design

With the completion of user-needs tests in June and the first in a series of usability tests beginning in September, NLS is closer to having a digital talking-book machine (DTBM) that meets the requirements of patrons and network staff. The user-needs tests were conducted in the form of focus groups with the main objective of validating the existing requirements for the DTBM and the flash-memory cartridge. Engineers then employed the input from the user-needs tests to shape prototype models of digital talking-book cartridges and players for the usability tests that followed.

"User testing will enable us to optimize the experience of operating the machine and get the most from the system," said Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director. "Patron comments will help designers to enhance areas that most concern our readers."

User-needs test

Focus groups were conducted over a three-week period in Baltimore, Maryland; Los Angeles, California; Clearwater, Florida; and Madison, Wisconsin. Participants in the user-needs test were specifically chosen to represent broad patron diversity in age, gender, education level, technical skill, visual disability, and physical handicap. Users who statistically represent greater numbers of NLS patrons will also have greater representation in the tests. Regional and subregional libraries assisted in identifying interested participants and organizing their participation.

"This process is where it all comes together," said Michael Moodie, NLS deputy director. "We start out with user-needs evaluations and then carefully validate each idea through hands-on testing to make sure that the machine we design is the right model for most users."

Michael Moodie observes patron 
	testing.
Photo caption: Michael Moodie observes patron testing sessions in Baltimore, Maryland.

Twenty-four patrons were tested in groups limited in size to three participants, so that examiners could gain a detailed understanding of individual user needs through interviews and observations of tasks performed on the current C-1 cassette player. Participants reviewed several proposed player shapes and sizes, cartridge shapes, cartridge insertion and removal methods, and the shapes and layouts of controls. They also performed a number of tasks with the cassette player and mailing containers so that examiners could get a sense of the existing baselines for issues such as accessibility, performance, and ease of operation.

"Operational tasks are important because they give us an idea of the range of users' abilities and provide an understanding of the challenges they face and what we must design for," said Moodie. "We learn more specifics about the machine's operation by observing how patrons handle the machine."

Initial test results showed that patron concerns about the digital player could be categorized into three main areas: discoverability (the process by which new users become acquainted with the equipment), usability, and portability. Patrons emphasized the importance of portability and reported that they move players frequently.

"These results illustrate how informed the consumers are," said James Gashel, National Federation of the Blind executive director for strategic initiatives. "We can help engineers design for those needs. We will help them help us."

The library support staff who were interviewed said that they favored a simple interface that may be easily explained to patrons. Repair technicians are looking for a player design that facilitates servicing and cleaning.

Usability test

The second round of tests was guided by four main goals: validating user-interface design and defining priorities for basic and advanced players; defining patron understanding and use of primary DTBM features; gathering feedback on player design and specific physical features; and improving the design and development of the models to be tested in round three in early November.

"This series of usability tests was planned to determine whether engineers are getting the design right from the perspective of librarians and patrons," said Moodie. "From the results of these tests, we will be able to validate and refine some requirements and turn them into specifications for the machine."

Sixty-nine current and potential patrons with varied visual, physical, and cognitive impairments conducted operational tasks for the first time on models of the DTBM. The models, constructed from special modeling foam, incorporated the results from the user-needs tests and had functional buttons that were connected to actual digital talking-book recordings to simulate reading. Interviews with library staff were also conducted. The National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore and Cleveland and the Trace Research and Development Center of the University of Wisconsin at Madison facilitated testing.

Participants examined the accessibility of basic functions; tested the shape, placement, tactile appeal, and ease of use of control buttons; and appraised the logic and clarity of navigation features. They also analyzed player size, cartridge insertion, power cord storage, and use of the retractable handle and headphone jack.

The findings reveal that patrons continue to value accessibility, usability, and portability. Users suggested improvements to audio instructions housed in the player, and they expressed preferences on handle positioning, the cord-storage compartment, and the cartridge mailing container. Librarians were interested in maintenance issues such as cleaning players, relabeling cartridges, and storing players.

"All of these findings are significant because they will be evaluated and incorporated into the ongoing design and development process for the cartridge and player," said Moodie.

The successful design of a DTBM will hinge on making effective compromises on a broad spectrum of requirements and needs. "This is an exercise in trade-offs. Incorporating some feedback will unavoidably happen at the expense of other accommodations," said Moodie.

"Nevertheless, we will strive toward a design that reflects the highest patron priorities. We are confident that the end result will be a smart, easy-to-use player that provides an enhanced user experience for all."

Questions?

Do you have questions about the NLS digital project?

Do you want to know when you might receive a digital player?

Do you want to know how long cassette books and magazines will continue to be available?

Send your questions to the NLS News editor.

Questions of general interest will be directed to experts on the NLS staff, and replies will appear in future issues of News.

E-mail Paula Higgins at phig@loc.gov or fax your questions to (202) 707-0712.

2005 revised standards available in print

After more than a year of cooperative hard work among regional librarians, state librarians, and representatives from various organizations serving blind and physically handicapped people, the Revised Standards and Guidelines of Service for the Library of Congress Network of Libraries for the Blind and Physically Handicapped 2005 is now available in regular print. Published by the American Library Association (ALA) and promulgated by the ALA's Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), these standards (in their fourth revision) form the basis for evaluating network library activities and assessing how well each library is meeting the common goal for providing special-format reading materials to patrons. The publication may be ordered online at the ASCLA web site, www.ala.org/ala/ascla/ascla.htm, or by phone at 1-866-Shop ALA (1-866-746-7252). NLS will add the publication to its national collection in audio and braille formats as well.

The document breaks the standards into twelve functional areas: provision of services, resource development and management, public education and outreach, consulting services, volunteers, administration/organization, budget and funding, planning and evaluation, policies and procedures, reports, personnel, and research and development. The standard provides guidelines for determining appropriate levels of personnel and minimum space requirements.

First revision since 1995

The revision was underwritten by NLS, at the request of ASCLA, to address changes in library service since the previous revision in 1995. As with earlier iterations, this document was developed under the auspices of an advisory committee consisting of representatives of blind and physically handicapped consumer organizations, network librarians, and the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies.

Directed by Courtney Deines-Jones, principal and founder of the Grimalkin Group, the committee produced an initial working paper and two drafts, which were circulated in 2004 to all regional libraries, subregional libraries, and state library agencies for review and comment. Public hearings were held in 2004 at both the ALA Midwinter Meeting and the annual meeting. The final draft of these standards was ratified by the ASCLA standards review committee, and the ASCLA Board of Directors at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, in January 2005.

The ALA standards have multiple functions in the world of library services for the blind and physically handicapped. NLS uses the standards as the foundation for providing service to blind and physically handicapped readers through its network of regional and subregional libraries. Network libraries use them to set goals in meeting the immediate needs of patrons. The Revised Standards and Guidelines of Service for the Library of Congress Network of Libraries for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is also the primary tool that NLS network consultants use to evaluate the ability of libraries to meet all patron needs.

In order to ensure that all patrons receive the same level of service across the nation, consultants visit each regional library once every two years. The NLS network consultants base their evaluations of library service for each individual library on the standards. In addition to evaluating each network library's level of service, the consultants also provide recommendations on improving service, transmit ideas from one network library to another, and put library agencies in contact with one another to discuss issues of mutual concern. The consultants advocate on behalf of patrons when they visit a library and on behalf of the network library when they visit administrating agencies. They also convey network libraries' concerns and points of view during discussions on policy and procedure at NLS. "It's the consultant's job to continuously think 'How will this decision impact the network library, NLS service, and ultimately, the patron,' " said Deborah Toomey, NLS southern and midlands consultant.

For the network consultant program the ASCLA standards provide the backdrop for network libraries and state administrative agencies to work together to see that the needs of every patron are met.

Advisory Committee participants

Henry Chang, Braille Institute Library Services

Kim Charlson (working team member), Braille and Talking Book Library (Watertown, Massachusetts)

Peter Davis, Blinded Veterans Association

Courtney Deines-Jones (working team member), Project director

Sara Jones, Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, Nevada State Library

Barry Levine, American Council of the Blind

Christine McKenzie, National Federation of the Blind

Stephen Prine, NLS liaison

Rahye Puckett (working team member), Blind and Physically Handicapped Library (Jackson, Mississippi)

Moira Shea, National Organization on Disability

Richard Smith, Wolfner Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (Jefferson City, Missouri)

Regional conferences focus on future of digital talking books and machines

The development of digital technology, workshops on program enhancement, and the launch of the national public relations campaign highlighted the regional meetings of librarians serving blind and physically handicapped readers across the nation.

Midlands and Western Regions hold joint conference in Seattle

Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, Seattle.
Photo caption: Washington Talking Book and Braille Library in Seattle.

The National Library Service Western/Midlands Joint Regional Biennial Conference took place May 12 14, 2005, in Seattle, Washington. The conference was hosted by Gloria Leonard, director of the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, and chaired by Midlands Conference chair Catherine Durivage, Minnesota Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and Western Conference chair Jerry Packard, New Mexico Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

A preconference day, May 11, was devoted to discussion of "Assistive Technologies in Libraries: Making Information More Accessible." Debbie Cook, director of the Washington Assistive Technology Alliance, gave the opening address, and the remainder of the day was devoted to small-group discussion and problem solving.

Updates on NLS activities

Jan Walsh, Washington state librarian, inaugurated the full conference on May 12, and Leonard and the two conference chairs welcomed the librarians from the western and midland states. Steve Prine and a team from the NLS Network Services Section gave updates on NLS activities, including the digital project, the 102 Talking-Book Club, and online inventory ordering procedures.

Durivage, Packard, and David Whittall, NLS network consultant, described the current state of the national outreach project, briefing librarians on what to expect as the Fleishman-Hillard agency finalized its plans for a campaign that would reach every corner of the country. This presentation of the "top-down" marketing model was complemented by a panel devoted to local outreach efforts. John Brewster of Braille Institute, Los Angeles, described the effectiveness of local book clubs around his city; Bessie Oakes, Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled, recalled the value of linking public information dissemination to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and of making good use of local public-television arts segments; Richard Smith, director of the Wolfner Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, endorsed the power of personal canvassing of nursing homes and similar facilities, and of advertising in local publications at the neighborhood level; and Marsha Valence, Wisconsin Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, reported good results from the NLS Take a Talking Book campaign but emphasized the critical role of follow-up to solidify, maintain, and expand public awareness.

Library progress reports

Christie Briggs, Montana Talking Book Library director, told the story of the evolution of Montana's recording program, from its informal beginning to its acquisition of the first digital Low-Complexity Mastering System in the country. Theresa Connolly, book recording program coordinator at the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, described the development of her operations from open-reel to digital recording facilities.

Dan Boyd, South Dakota State Library director of information services, explained his library's success in using prison inmate volunteers for several projects, chief among them machine repair. Linda Montgomery, director of the Arizona Braille and Talking Book Library, reported on her progress in forming regional partnerships to meet her library's repair and logistical needs. Geraldine Adams, director of the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Durivage, and Karen Keninger, director of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, participated in a panel called "Governance: It's a Double-Edged Sword." The complex issue of a library's autonomy in relation to its position within a state hierarchy was examined from several vantage points.

Jacobs gives keynote address

Jerry Packard and Deborah Jacobs.
Photo caption: Conference organizer Jerry Packard and keynote speaker Deborah Jacobs, Seattle city librarian.

On Friday, May 13, conferees spent the day at the Seattle Public Library's Central Library, a dazzling, architecturally provocative, state-of-the-art facility in the downtown area. City Librarian Deborah L. Jacobs gave the conference keynote address in the library's Microsoft Auditorium. Following Jacobs's account of the central library's conception and construction, the conferees took guided tours in small groups.

A panel made up of Durivage, Packard, and Prine conducted a freewheeling discussion of the digital talking-book initiative, with energetic participation from the audience in the auditorium.

Jacqueline Conner, Multistate Center East director, and Karnell Parry, Multistate Center West director, reviewed innovations in ordering and inventory storage. A poignant note was struck with the announcement by Parry of his impending retirement after thirty-two years with the network. "I could not have found a better career," he said, noting that this would be his last conference.

John Paré, director of sponsored technology outreach for the National Federation of the Blind, presented an update on NFB-NEWSLINE. The popular free dial-up service for people who are blind or print-disabled now features some 175 local and national newspapers, improved voice quality, national magazines including the New Yorker and AARP the Magazine, and a growing number of Spanish-language selections.

Debbie Cook and Diana Brawley Sussman of the Southern Illinois Talking Book Center described innovative online programs for library patrons, InfoEyes and Online Program for All Libraries (OPAL), both of which employ iVocalize software.

The conference ended Saturday with business and user group meetings and closing remarks by the chairs.

Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library hosts Northern Conference

Kept up to date with conference activities through an Internet blog, participants in the Northern Regional Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Disabled Individuals converged at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in New York City. The conference theme was Preparing for Digital Talking Books and the agenda featured sessions on the "Digitization of Talking Books," "How to Make Changes to a Digital World," and the "Future of E-Books."

Addressing patron needs

A highlight of the conference was a presentation by Valerie Stevens, director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. Listeners were reminded to ask their patrons about their needs and preferences rather than assume what's best for them.

Breakout session, Andrew Heiskell Library, New York.
Photo caption: Librarians and others participate in a break-out session to discuss "Making Changes to a Digital World" at the Northern Conference in New York City.

NLS deputy director Michael Moodie briefed the group on NLS's progress in converting the analog collection to digital format and determining the new format's distribution method. To everyone's delight, Moodie noted that Battelle, a major technology firm located in Columbus, Ohio, had been awarded a contract for the design of the player, flash-memory cartridge, and mailing container. The company will be assisted by HumanWare (formerly VisuAide), a leader in digital talking-book technology; the National Federation of the Blind; and Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Wisconsin Madison, which makes information technology and telecommunications systems accessible by people with disabilities.

To network libraries, the new medium's distribution method is equally as important as the medium itself. Moodie explained that there is a distribution study under way with three modes being considered: the current system of mass duplicating and storing quantities of book titles for distribution at local libraries; on-demand duplication, where a central facility would copy digital talking books on request; and a hybrid model that would combine mass duplication and on- demand duplication.

Implementing change

James H. Walther, director of training and development for the New York Public Libraries, led the session "Making Change in a Digital World." He highlighted the functionality of project management tools in implementing change. Walther urged the librarians to be project managers by envisioning the future, emphasizing planning; the important personality traits and skill sets; and the need to evaluate, set goals, assign tasks, and consider outcomes. Team building, he contended, is an essential element for effecting change and staff should be encouraged to be creative and to take ownership, as well as be involved in problem-solving efforts.

To network libraries, the new medium's distribution method is equally as important as the medium itself.

The group viewed a demonstration on the "Future of E-Books" by Steve Potash of Overdrive.com. The company has operated since 1986 and has built a reputation as an experienced provider of e-books and digital rights management. Northern Conference participants were given the opportunity to sample the service through the blog, created and maintained by the New York Public Library staff.

Ever the gracious host, Robert McBrien, assisted by Bonnie Farrier and the rest of the Andrew Heiskell staff, provided a tour of the library and of its spacious studio.

Southern Conference convenes in Jacksonville, Florida

The regional meeting of the Southern Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals was held on May 2 4, 2005, in Jacksonville, Florida. With conference chair Ruth Hemphill presiding, the general business meeting covered reports from the Southern Conference members of the National Audio-Equipment and Collection Development advisory groups.

Session topics range widely

Conference attendees inside Jacksonville Public Library, which was under construction.
Photo caption: Librarian Linda Stetson and NLS network chief Carolyn Sung join librarian Fara Zaleski and NLS network consultant Deborah Toomey for a tour of the Jacksonville Public Library, under construction.

The program featured a number of sessions, including "Assistive Technology," presented by Barbara Mates from the northern Ohio regional library; "Analyzing Collection Use in Depth: Implementing the 80/20 Rule," led by Pat Kirk of Keystone Library Automation Systems; "Standards Revision," presented by Courtney Deines-Jones, the project director hired by ASCLA to coordinate the revision; and "What's New at NFB-NEWSLINE," presented by John Paré, National Federation of the Blind. The session on circulation sharing was given by Fara Zaleski of the Alabama regional library and Rahye Puckett of the Mississippi regional library.

Conference host Jerry Reynolds, director of Jacksonville Public Library's Talking Books Library, conducted a tour of the new Jacksonville Public Library building (still under construction). Conference attendees had the opportunity to visit a local gallery to experience the "Art beyond Sight" exhibit.

NLS Network Division chief Carolyn Sung, Network Services Section head Steve Prine, and network consultant Deborah Toomey were on hand to brief librarians on activities in Washington, D.C.

Jacqueline Connor, Multistate Center East (MSCE) director, and Karnell Parry, Multistate Center West (MSCW) director, briefed participants on the services the centers provide.

John Whitlock, Mississippi regional librarian, was elected conference chair and the conference voted to hold a joint meeting with the Northern Conference in Washington, D.C., in 2007.

Baker named assistant head of Production Control Section

Alice K. Baker.
Photo caption: Alice Baker.

Alice K. Baker, who holds a JD degree from the University of Oregon School of Law, has been appointed assistant head of the Production Control Section (PCS), effective September 6. In this position, Baker will direct PCS staff in all aspects of the production of braille and recorded books and magazines for the NLS program. Her responsibilities will include preparing and reviewing contracts, assigning projects, monitoring deliveries, evaluating performance, and ensuring that production stays within budget.

Baker most recently served as an operations manager for Nebs, Inc., a provider of document management solutions based in Austin, Texas. There she managed a multimillion-dollar document conversion operation that included budget development and adherence, human resource management, and production scheduling.

A Treasury of Talking Books: Great voices from the past restored using today's technology

Literary luminaries, political pundits, and television, radio, and silver screen stars have offered their time and talents to the talking-book program over the years. Christopher Morley, Harry S. Truman, Maya Angelo, Bob Hope, and Alistair Cooke are just a few who have read specifically for the free reading program from their own works at the recording studios of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the American Printing House for the Blind.

In a project conducted by Edwin Pitts, production control specialist, NLS has taken ten-minute excerpts from twenty-four such recordings, added introductions for each of the authors, and compiled them as A Treasury of Talking Books. Each of the archived recordings, which span nearly forty years, was restored to its original sound quality using audio-preservation techniques and digital re mastering technology.

The project began in 2004, an offshoot of a much larger effort to conserve and restore more than 3,400 archival sound recordings on long-playing discs from the NLS collection. This enormous undertaking involves inspecting and physically cleaning each title, disc, and container; cataloging each title and author; and implementing optimal storage-area environmental controls, including temperature, relative humidity, lighting, and air circulation, along with protections against pollution and insect infestation. "The Treasury itself started with a letter from former NLS collection development librarian Lucy Veer," explained Pitts. "She had come across a list of authors who had read all or part of their books for AFB. In my spare time, I searched the LP collection, pulling from the list. The late Don Smith, then head of the Quality Assurance Section, was kind enough to allow me a sound booth in the section and set me up with a record player."

Narrowing the list down and selecting excerpts was an arduous task, especially when one considers the sheer volume of these recordings Harry S. Truman's Year of Decisions alone comprises thirty-seven twelve-inch discs. "I listened to the selections for worthwhile passages as I went along," said Pitts. "I found Bob Hope's LP recorded on the American Printing House label. This was a real gem."

"Ed Pitts is to be commended for assuming such a labor-intensive and time-consuming project," said NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke. "The finished product is a brilliantly produced collection of the works and voices of some of history's most prominent figures."

"The production of the Treasury took two years, three months, and twenty-four days," says Pitts. "I enjoyed almost every minute of the roller-coaster ride."

A Treasury of Talking Books will be available on a single cassette, so that patrons may enjoy hearing these celebrated voices from the past on current NLS equipment.

A Treasury of Talking Books

Maya Angelo, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1970

Des Arena, A Book, 1977

Red Barber, Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat, 1969

Victor Borge, My Favorite Intermissions, 1973

Ilka Chase, Worlds Apart, 1973

Marchette Chute, Jesus of Israel, 1961

Alistair Cooke, America, 1973

Joan Crawford, My Way of Life, 1972

Robert Frost reading from his own poetry

Herbert Hoover, The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson, 1959

Bob Hope, I Never Left Home, 1945

Emily Kimbrough, Forever Old, Forever New, 1964

Eva La Gallienne, With a Quiet Heart, 1954

Archibald MacLeish, A Time to Speak, 1941

Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea, 1942

Christopher Morley, Where the Blue Begins, 1943

Ogden Nash, Everyone but Thee, 1963

Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember, 1950

Jean Shepherd, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, 1969

Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver, 1941

Harry S. Truman, Year of Decisions, 1956

Glenway Wescott, The Pilgrim Hawk, 1944

Jose Yglesias, The Fist of the Revolution, 1969

Lin Yutang, My Country and My People, 1942)

Library service in Ireland: National Council for the Blind Library Services extends outreach

An increase in demand for library services has prompted the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) to move its Library and Media Services Production Department to a larger facility. The move, scheduled to take place this year, will enable the Dublin-based NCBI library to expand its audio and braille collections and increase production of these materials. The number of media-services production staff increased to ten in 2003, and the number of volunteers doubled to fifty-four. These volunteers help produce audio schoolbooks and novels, edit braille production, and check returned audio library books.

According to NCBI's most recent annual report, 22,435 books were issued to 2,848 patrons in 2003: 2,512 patrons were issued audiobooks (nine per user), 263 received books in braille (four per user), and the remaining 73 patrons received large-print books (four per user). Subscriptions to 21 audio magazines were provided to 1,504 patrons that same year. The NCBI library has more than 7,000 talking books and 40 Irish magazines, newspapers, and journals on tape.

NCBI reported that the most popular adult audiobook, Echoes, and most popular braille book, Firefly Summer, were both penned by bestselling author Maeve Binchy. The Agatha Christie series topped the large-print book list. For junior audiobook readers, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series remained a favorite. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume was the most frequent choice of braille book readers and E.B. White's classic Stuart Little was the most read large-print book.

Storytime, the library's program for children, produced two stars in 2003. The junior participants were selected for inclusion in the Network Two television program "That's Wicked." Children attending Storytime prepare plays and improvisations on stories from NCBI's junior library. J.K. Rowling's 2003 release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire proved to be a huge hit with the young readers.

NCBI's Library and Media Services made other significant advances in 2003. Vision Impaired Service Users Electronic Register (VISER), a 2002 library services initiative, was completed in 2003. VISER is a database that ensures that visually impaired individuals receive information in the format of their choice from NCBI, government departments, and semi-government agencies. The library continues to work with government agencies and companies to convert their print material into alternate formats.

Focus, a taped magazine that addresses matters of vision impairment both in Ireland and around the world, became available on the Internet. Produced by Joe Bollard and distributed by the NCBI, Focus encourages listeners to contribute to the magazine via letters, e-mails, and tape.

In January 2003, Ireland's minister for health and children Michael Martin visited the national Two-Track Tape Library in Cork, meeting with library managers Jim and Joan Murphy, staff, and volunteers. The two-track library distributed books to nearly eight hundred patrons that year.

In addition to its many library services, the National Council for the Blind provides information, advice, and support to the nearly seven thousand blind and visually impaired people in Ireland. Training in daily living, job-seeking, and computer skills; peer counseling; family therapy; and employment support are among the many services NCBI provides through its Dublin headquarters, six regional centers, and low-vision clinics. NCBI also lobbies for increased awareness of the rights and needs of people with impaired vision. Its campaign for the introduction of braille and large print on medicine labels helped in the mandatory requirement for all pharmaceutical products in the country for human use to include braille on the package, beginning October 2005. NCBI was named one of the fifty best companies to work for in Ireland in 2005 by Great Places to Work Ireland.

Louisiana state library honors volunteers

The State Library of Louisiana's Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (SBPH) honored the generosity of the fifty-two volunteers who donated their time and talents to the library at a reception and awards ceremony on May 18, 2005, in downtown Baton Rouge. The event was cohosted by the Mrs. W. Carruth Jones Foundation, a Friends group of the State Library of Louisiana, and was attended by a diverse group of individuals.

Elizabeth Hecker Perkins, regional librarian and coordinator of special services, noted that "people from all walks of life contribute to our successful programs." Beverly Dugas, a library specialist supervisor at SBPH added, "From the folks with the TelecomPioneers who repair our machines; to Janette and Edie, the mother and daughter team who fold our newsletters; to the teachers, actors, and disc jockeys who narrate books for Louisiana Voices, we have a wide variety of people who are united in the desire to help us serve the print-impaired community."

Anjier delivers opening remarks

Ralph Sims congratulated by Thomas Jacques, Louisiana state librarian.
Photo caption: Louisiana Voices volunteer and narrator of twenty audiobook titles Ralph Sims (left) shakes hands with outgoing state librarian Thomas Jaques.

Jennifer Anjier, former regional librarian and president of SBPH's Friends group, delivered the opening remarks to the assembled group. Outgoing Louisiana state librarian Tom Jaques, who enjoyed a thirty-year career with the State Library of Louisiana, officiated for the last time at this volunteer-appreciation ceremony. He praised the honorees for their hard work, noting that volunteers from the East Baton Rouge Parish Council on Aging RSVP Program, Bell-South TelecomPioneers, Exxon Mobil, the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired, and other dedicated individuals repaired more than 290 cassette players, prepared 21,600 newsletters for mailing, and inspected countless thousands of recorded cassettes during the past year. Volunteers who worked as narrators, producers, and editors for the Louisiana Voices audiobook recording program completed fifty-three audiobooks and began work on a number of other projects. He also expressed gratitude to the many community-based groups that contribute their time and energy to SBPH and its audiobook recording program.

Also recognized were several students from the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired who interned with SBPH. "We are truly grateful for all the help our volunteers provide to our programs and our patrons," said Dugas.

Volunteers receive certificates and pins

Margaret Harrison, head of the SBPH, and Angela Cinquemano, studio manager of Louisiana Voices, presented each volunteer with a Star Performer lapel pin and a certificate of appreciation which read: "Whether it's a simple task or a complex project, teamwork makes it easier to achieve successful results. Having you on our team creates astounding synergy that makes the load seem lighter, keeps our eyes on the prize, and results in success. With you on our team we can reach the stars."

Oklahoma's digital studio sets high standards

Paul Adams, Oklahoma regional library's studio director.
Photo caption: Studio director, Paul Adams, monitors the recording of a book using the new digital equipment.

NLS's audiobook production specialist Bill West returned from the Oklahoma regional library with praise for the library's production of audiobooks and magazines in their new digital recording studio. "We decided that if we were going to go digital we wanted to strive for the highest quality and work toward meeting the NLS standards for audiobook and magazine production," said Paul Adams, recording studio director.

West visited the studio and spoke at a luncheon provided by the Oklahomans for Special Library Services. He focused on the high-quality audiobooks and magazines produced by the Oklahoma studio for the NLS collection. West also described the role that Oklahoma could play in setting the standard for other studios planning to transition to digital recording.

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